Heated over pool funds

Coun­cil­lor’s ire sparked by in­clu­sion by CAO of $1M to place in re­serve for new aquatic cen­tre.

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONTPAGE - LEN GIL­LIS

A move to be­gin set­ting aside funds for a new aquatic cen­tre in Tim­mins sparked a shout­ing match Tim­mins city coun­cil.

As might be ex­pected from re­cent his­tory, the in­ci­dent in­volved Coun. Rick Dubeau and Mayor Steve Black.

Coun­cil was re­view­ing for approval items in the cap­i­tal bud­get for the com­mu­nity and de­vel­op­ment ser­vices de­part­ment. This in­cluded things like play­ground im­prove­ments, more garbage cans and pic­nic ta­bles at lo­cal parks and even new flag­poles to be in­stalled on municipal build­ings for the Canada 150 cel­e­bra­tions.

Dubeau spoke up to ask ques­tions about a $1-mil­lion bud­get item la­belled “Aquat­ics Cen­tre: Con­tri­bu­tion to­wards re­serve.”

“Ques­tion, Mayor Black. I don’t un­der­stand why this is in there. Ev­ery­thing else that was asked for was passed by coun­cil. Why is $1 mil­lion in­cluded for the aquatic cen­tre in the cap­i­tal bud­get,” said Dubeau.

The re­sponse came from com­mu­nity and de­vel­op­ment ser­vices di­rec­tor Mark Jensen, who was in the process of pre­sent­ing his bud­get.

“The num­ber was in­cluded in the bud­get. The trea­surer felt it be­longed in this bud­get to cover the cost of the de­sign com­po­nent — the de­sign work that we went out to RFP for,” said Jensen. Dubeau said the city ap­proved only $750,000 last year (2016) for de­tailed de­sign work to be car­ried out for the aquat­ics cen­tre.

“How much of that money have we spent so far?” Dubeau asked Jensen. “It’s in a re­serve right now to cover the cost of the de­sign,” said Jensen.

“That was sup­posed to be for de­tailed en­gi­neer­ing draw­ings. My un­der­stand­ing is that we haven’t used any­where near that,” said Dubeau.

“We have used any­thing yet,” replied Jensen.

“Then why are we adding an­other $1 mil­lion to our bud­get here?” Dubeau asked.

Jensen re­sponded by ex­plain­ing that if coun­cil even­tu­ally ap­proves the con­cept of a new aquatic cen­tre with other recre­ational facilities, the city will need the money to pay for a de­tailed de­sign — the sort of de­sign that is needed to is­sue a ten­der.

Dubeau cited pre­vi­ous com­ments of­fered by city en­gi­neer­ing di­rec­tor Luc Du­val, sug­gest­ing only $500,000 was re­quired for the de­sign draw­ings, an­other $500,000 for site prepa­ra­tion and then $500,000 for overall man­age­ment of the con­struc­tion.

“This is what irks me,” said Dubeau, who ex­plained that $1.5-mil­lion was first sug­gested as the bud­get for the de­sign draw­ings, but the en­gi­neer­ing di­rec­tor said only $500,000 was re­quired for the draw­ings. Dubeau claimed Du­val was “ad­mit­ting ” that only $500,000 was needed for de­sign draw­ings for a new aquatic cen­tre.

Dubeau was re­fer­ring to com­ments made at the Jan. 13, 2016, where Coun. Joe Camp­bell asked a ques­tion of engineer Du­val, won­der­ing how much money an engineer might charge per hour for de­sign draw­ings.

Du­val, who has noth­ing to do with the Tim­mins aquatic cen­tre project, of­fered what he de­scribed as a “ball­park es­ti­mate.”

Based on that pre­vi­ous es­ti­mate, Dubeau claimed the city was “mis­lead­ing” him and the pub­lic in the bud­get process.

“This is ridicu­lous. This is omit­ted. This was not told to us,” said Dubeau. Black en­tered the dis­cus­sion. “Coun­cil­lor Dubeau, I think if you re­call, and I am not go­ing to get into a big de­bate with you…”

“Oh please get into a de­bate,” Dubeau re­sponded, his voice ris­ing.

“Coun­cil­lor Dubeau, if you want…” said the mayor.

“This is in the cap­i­tal bud­get, and this is bull —” Dubeau abruptly stop­ping in mid sen­tence.

“I will call you to or­der on that one,” said the mayor.

“I apol­o­gize, I apol­o­gize,” said Dubeau.

“If you re­call, you keep say­ing things aren’t ap­proved. Coun­cil has voted I think five or six times…” said Black. “Not on this!” said Dubeau. “…Five or six times on res­o­lu­tions. And the last res­o­lu­tion we ap­proved,” Black con­tin­ued.

“Was to ap­prove an RFP, not for a mil­lion dol­lars!” Dubeau in­ter­rupted again, his voice ris­ing.

As the de­bate con­tin­ued, both Dubeau and the mayor ar­gued over the fig­ures that had been dis­cussed at pre­vi­ous meet­ings.

Black told Dubeau if he was so against hav­ing $1-mil­lion in the draft cap­i­tal bud­get, all he had to do was table a vote to re­move it.

“No! I shouldn’t have to table a vote…” Dubeau said, and added that no one on coun­cil voted to have the item added to the draft bud­get. He said the item should not have been writ­ten in.

“You put some­thing in this bud­get,” said Dubeau shak­ing a fin­ger at the mayor. “Who put this in here, you tell me.”

“I don’t make our bud­get,” said Black hold­ing up the doc­u­ment, say­ing he was not the per­son who pre­pared the draft bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion.

“Coun­cil has voted ap­prox­i­mately nine times now, seven-to-two yes in the big col­lu­sion world of your world,…” said Black, his voice ris­ing.

“Are you out of or­der?” asked Dubeau. “Are you out of or­der now? You called me out of or­der now. Stick to the is­sue, stick to the is­sue,” Dubeau chided.

“I apol­o­gize Coun­cil­lor Dubeau,” said Black, adding there were pro votes seven or eight times on the aquatic cen­tre, to move the project for­ward.

“Not a mil­lion dol­lars!” Dubeau in­ter­rupted.

“…to move it for­ward. So staff has al­lo­cated the dol­lars they feel to move it for­ward,” Black con­tin­ued.

Even­tu­ally city ad­min­is­tra­tor Joe Tor­lone en­tered the dis­cus­sion.

He pointed out the es­ti­mate of­fered by Du­val a year ago was merely an opin­ion from some­one who was asked but is not in­volved with the aquatic cen­tre.

“He may have given you his opin­ion as an engineer, but he has noth­ing to do with this project,” said Tor­lone.

“Dur­ing the 2016 bud­get I think we all agreed that $750,000 was ear­marked to go to­wards the $1.5-mil­lion that was es­ti­mated to be the cost of do­ing the de­sign. So we did put in the $750,000,” Tor­lone con­tin­ued.

He said back in Jan­uary 2016, coun­cil agreed to de­fer an ad­di­tional $750,000 to the aquatic cen­tre in 2017, for the to­tal of $1.5 mil­lion.

Tor­lone said he added the ex­tra $250,000 to the $750,000 ap­proved by coun­cil be­cause he sus­pected ad­di­tional money might be re­quired in the bud­get.

“It any­body is at fault, it is my­self. I in­structed the trea­surer to do it. And we can go from there,” said Tor­lone.

As yet coun­cil has not voted on what to keep or what to re­move from the cap­i­tal bud­get. Coun­cil has de­cided to go through the full op­er­a­tional bud­get first and then de­ter­mine af­ter­wards what cap­i­tal items city coun­cil be­lieves the city can af­ford, or not af­ford.

The next bud­get meet­ing is Wed­nes­day, Jan. 18.

LEN GIL­LIS/THE Daily Press

Tim­mins Coun. Rick Dubeau, left, and Mayor Steve Black got into a back-and-forth de­bate over $1 mil­lion in fund­ing which staff rec­om­mended be placed in a re­serve des­ig­nated for a pro­posed aquatic cen­tre. Dubeau pointed out coun­cil had not au­tho­rized th­ese funds, which Black agreed to, not­ing it was part of a draft bud­get be­ing pre­sented from staff to coun­cil for approval.

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